How to Boost Serotonin: 5 Natural, Safe and Effective Ways

Serotonin plays a vital role in mood and motivation. Without it, you might find yourself in a rut, but there’s hope. There are external factors that directly affect your serotonin production.

Anxiety and mood disorders such as OCD and depression have been linked to serotonin production and availability in the brain. Over time, it can become increasingly more difficult to stabilize serotonin production. Continue reading to find out about 5 natural ways to boost serotonin.

Maybe you’ve been spending more time as a night owl and noticed that it’s more difficult for you to get yourself out of bed. Maybe you’ve been single for a while and have been feeling the need for physical human contact more than usual. Or maybe you’ve been busy so you’ve skipped out on the gym and noticed your motivation lacking. All of these situations can lead to lower serotonin.

“Lower serotonin” can mean a few things. It can either mean that you are not producing enough serotonin, that your brain has fewer serotonin receptors naturally, or that the receptors aren’t functioning well enough to grab the serotonin. Figuring out exactly which issue is taking place is a whole other topic entirely.

For this article, we’re just going to focus on some natural ways to boost serotonin, but first, you’ll probably want to know why serotonin is so important.

The importance of serotonin

neurons transferring pulses and generating information

There are also many people who suffer from the symptoms of depression who may benefit from serotonin stimulation. Sunlight, exercise, massage, and happy thoughts.

Another reason we need serotonin is to regulate our sleep. When the sun goes down, your body is triggered to release more serotonin and melatonin to help you fall asleep and have normal sleep cycles.

So, going out in the sun, getting your vitamin D, and making serotonin also helps you to regulate your melatonin production, which helps you sleep. Without adequate serotonin, your body doesn’t release enough melatonin and your sleep cycle can get out of whack. You may suffer from the symptoms of insomnia.

Sleep deprivation then causes a whole bunch of health issues like depression, which is also commonly traced back to serotonin deficiency. So, get your sleep and keep serotonin levels up!

CalmClinic lists these other 3 issues that can occur from low serotonin. All the more reason to keep your serotonin levels in a healthy range:


Serotonin is  responsible in part for controlling aggressive reactions. Though aggression is not a big part of OCD, irritability is a side effect of anxiety, which can more easily lead to aggression if there’s not enough serotonin present in the body.


Our learning abilities are regulated by serotonin, meaning that we process new information more quickly and effectively when our serotonin levels are in balance. When they are out of balance, learning becomes more difficult, which can lead to frustration and poor performance in work and/or school environments.


Memory problems can result from serotonin deficiency, which can cause unnecessary stress and disrupt performance in a variety of relationships and environments.

Now that you know how important it is, here’s how to boost serotonin and get out of your serotonin slump!

1. Sunlight

When you go out in the sun, your body synthesizes vitamin D which helps regulate serotonin production.

Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s a disorder where people feel sadder during the winter months.

A study found on PubMed explains how researchers observed a drop in the amount of serotonin produced in the brain during the winter months. They also observed that the amount of serotonin produced was directly correlated to the amount of sunlight the participants were exposed to. In other words, sunlight made them happier!

It is recommended that one should be exposed to sunlight for 10-15 minutes per day depending on time of day and how fair skinned. Fair skinned people need less sunlight to get the right amount of vitamin D, and dark skinned people need a bit more. Sunlight usually gets a bad rep for causing burns and skin cancer, but natural sunlight in the correct amount has actually been shown to help prevent skin cancer.

Imagine that! Yep, sunlight and its role synthesizing vitamin D is important for protecting skin from skin cancer. Just remember, everything in moderation: 10-15 minutes of sun is about all you need. Then, you must wear a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen of at least 30 and reapply every 2 hours for proper protection.

Artificial lighting will not have the same effect that natural sunlight has. Artificial lighting does not contain UVB rays, which play an important role in the process.

2. Exercise

woman exercising with a ball

Exercise also plays an important role in increasing serotonin and keeping you happy.

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, did a study on treating participants suffering from depression. He divided them into three groups with different treatments. One group was treated with medication, one with exercise and the last with a combination of the two. At first, all three groups had similar results in that they all had less intense symptoms of depression.

The shocking part was that those same groups of people were tested 6 months later to see if they had relapsed. Those who took solely medication had a 38% relapse rate. The combination group had a 31% relapse rate. The exercise group had a relapse rate of only 9%.

Scientists suggest that this astounding data is due to the raised serotonin levels of those in the exercise group. However, it is unclear what kinds of medication the other two groups took.

Here is a list of great aerobic (the best kind of exercise for serotonin production increase) exercises that will help to raise your serotonin levels:

  • Running
  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Swimming

Exercises such as yoga and Pilates are very good for you, but are less powerful at increasing the level of serotonin in the brain.

3. Massage

Any excuse for a massage is alright with me, but it’s especially beneficial when it’s a good excuse. Studies show that massage helps your serotonin levels raise while you relax.

Researchers at the Taylor & Francis Group found that serotonin and dopamine levels rise after massage therapy. They say, “Massage therapy has been noted to significantly alter the biochemistry of humans both immediately following massage sessions and over the course of massage therapy treatment periods.”

Even babies are positively affected by massage therapy. There are many studies that show how massaging an infant child can increase the availability of serotonin in the brain. This is especially important for infants who were exposed to serious health issues due to drug use by the mother. In those cases, the child’s brain may not produce the right amount of chemicals and serious medications can make parents feel uneasy. So, massage therapy is a great, safe option.

Scientists have known for a long time that touch and skin-to-skin contact is an essential trigger for the healthy development of the Serotonin pathways in the brains of babies.”

4. Eating well

fruit salad in watermelon

Your diet is the most important thing to balance. The nutrients that you receive through your food, affect you immediately. In the same way, if you constantly have a deficit of certain nutrients, your body will eventually stop being able to proceed with important chemical reactions needed to keep you healthy. It is the same for serotonin.

For proper serotonin system functionality, you especially need vitamin D, vitamin B6 and tryptophan. Tryptophan is used directly to create serotonin, but contrary to popular belief, it is actually very difficult to get an adequate amount of tryptophan from your diet to affect your serotonin production.

However, it can help to relax you. A balanced, nutritious diet filled primarily with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats and grains is the best way to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of all the nutrients you need.

It is also not advised that you eat foods containing serotonin, such as bananas, in order to increase serotonin in the brain, because the serotonin that you ingest won’t actually pass the blood-brain barrier. Foods that help to release serotonin in the brain are: Chocolate, Fruits, Vegetables, and of course, those delicious complex carbs.

It’s no wonder how some people reach for complex carbohydrate foods right before bed! They help to release serotonin and make you feel relaxed. However, this can also case food addiction because the serotonin release becomes a reward for eating the complex carbohydrate. Complex carbs should be eaten in moderation.

5. Thinking happy

This one might be a no brainer. Thinking about something that makes you happy, your graduation day or the birth of a child actually makes you happier. Sounds crazy, right? Okay. Maybe it doesn’t take a scientist to explain that thinking positively makes you feel positive, but sometimes it’s hard to remember how to view things on the bright side. So, it’s worth mentioning. Happiness is, of course, a choice after all.

Serotonin pills and depression

If you are looking to boost your serotonin levels because you have a clinically defined issue where serotonin stabilizers are sometimes prescribed, it is, of course, advised that you weigh all of your options and do the appropriate research before starting medications. There has been much debate on whether or not pills that raise your serotonin levels will cure depression.

Studies suggest that those pills do not cure depression but may alleviate the symptoms of depression for a period of time. There are many other chemicals, processes and neurotransmitters involved with how you feel. Even the food you eat can have an effect on your mood.

So, manipulating your serotonin levels alone might not be what you need. In fact, serotonin toxicity is also an issue that can happen when a person tries to self-medicate in unnatural ways, such as taking serotonin supplements over the counter without a prescription.

Either way, going out in the sun and thinking happy thoughts will never cause you any side effects (unless, of course, you don’t wear sunscreen or something). So, it’s safe to say that you can boost your serotonin levels in the five ways mentioned above as much as you’d like!

Stay happy

Now, get up in the morning, go for a nice jog, have your hubby massage your muscles after, and just think about how happy you’ll be when you don’t have to worry about your serotonin levels ever again!

We hope that you’ve learned some new interesting things about serotonin, and how it helps you stay happy. Be sure to like and share this article with your friends and family to get everyone outside, exercising, connecting with each other and sharing the happiness!

Do you need a reminder of things to make you happy? Here are a few little reminders you can look at that will brighten your day.

Here are 105 little things to make you happy!

About the author


Lauren is a writer and painter. When she's not painting or writing, she enjoys cooking, exercising, playing music, singing, and getting lost on YouTube for hours on end.

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